Mayor Hylan Passes Ordinance to Install Device in All Buildings Over Six Stories and in All Business Buildings—Contest Probable

MAYOR JOHN F. HYLAN, New York City, on Saturday, January 27, returned to the board of aldermen with a length) approval Ordinance Int. No. 274 adopted by the board of aldermen on January 16, 1923, entitled: “An ordinance to amend Article 20, Chapter 12, of the Code of Ordinances, relating to control of gas in certain buildings in case of fire.” This is the ordinance providing for a gas cut-off in all buildings six stories and over in height and those of lesser height not used exclusively for residential purposes. The action of the mayor followed two hearings in which charges of dishonesty and graft were freely made and in which opinions were expressed in favor and in opposition to the measure.

A similar ordinance was vetoed by Mayor Hylan last year on the ground that it included every building ami that the necessity for it was not shown in buildings under six stories in height, that is to say, in the building of the average small home or householder. The present ordinance was formed to meet this objection by Mayor Hylan, which it apparently did. The present ordinance was introduced through the suggestion of Chief John Kenlon, and was heartily endorsed both by Chief Kenlon and Assistant Chief Joseph Martin, who both spoke strongly in favor of the ordinance at the hearing held by Mayor Hylan. Chief Kenlon emphasized the dangers which the members of his department constantly ran from the melting of the connections of meters in fires, thus releasing the gas and causing the overcoming and, in at least one recorded case, the death of firemen through asphyxiation. The proposed ordinance, he said, would remove this danger.

On being asked what he considered the worst menace at a fire Assistant Chief Martin replied that he considered illuminating gas—the uncontrolled fluid—one of the worst menaces, and further said: “In dealing with a fire you are confronted with the escaping gas through the stair lines, showing that there is something on the upper floors escaping, and the ability to shut it off will aid very greatly the members of the Fire Department. During my career 1 have noted in buildings every key on a floor—in one case sixty-two keys were turned on at one time, and all venting gas. At this fire, which was on Broadway, I happened to be with the first firemen that entered and we were confronted with the heavily charged gas condition that existed on the stair line. It was an instance where, if we had had the manual shut-off or some accessible shut-off of some description, it would have tended to stop the flow of gas upon that floor.”

It is said that the Underwriters’ Laboratories have tested and approved eight different types of gas cut-offs answering to the requirements of the law. Besides this, the New York City board of standards and appeals has tested and approved three different devices and applications have been made for that of several other different types of such appliances. There seems very little doubt but that the approval of the law by Mayor Hylan will stimulate others to invent similar devices, and that there will be considerable competition which will lessen the cost of installation.

It was proposed at one of the hearings that the cost of the installation of the cut-off device should be placed upon the gas companies. In referring to this matter, Mayor Hylan in his message approving the law, said: “Placing of the cost now upon the gas companies with the new change in prospect of having the gas companies’ charges actually regulated on the basis of a fair return upon actual investment presents a different situation. The ultimate burden of the installation costs would fall with no less force upon the consumer with the gas company as the installation medium than it would if the medium was that of the landlord where the gas companies are held to actual investments, including gas cut-offs. In other words, with an honest regulation of the gas rates now in prospect, it becomes immaterial which medium is used in respect to the immediate cost of installation, because whichever one was used, the ultimate cost would be passed on to the public, except in so far as it is amortized by reduced insurance rates, which are pledged by the New York Fire Insurance Exchange, aid by using the property owners as the medium of carrying initial cost the immediate amortizing operation prevents any justifiable passing of cost on to the tenant.”

It is probable that the real estate interests will contest the validity of the law in the courts, on the grounds that it reI eves the gas companies of the responsibility and expense of maintaining the safety of its meters, pipes and connections in a building.

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